We’ve just wrapped up the second round of the NBA Playoffs in dramatic fashion and now we’re on to the Conference Finals. It’s not quite what we expected (Trail Blazers? Good for you!) but it’s pretty close. We’re now set for an exciting seven-game series between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers as well as the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. How will each team fare? What will the ultimate matchup be in this year’s Finals? Here’s what we think…
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Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers
It’s no surprise to see the Warriors here, but it is a bit of a surprise that the Trail Blazers have come this far. Portland was able to knock off the Denver Nuggets who’d just had one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, though it did come down to a critical Game 7. Golden State beat the Houston Rockets, who many thought was their biggest competition in the Western Conference, four games to two in the Semifinals to send home the streaking story-of-the-year James Harden. Sure, Game 6 was a bit touch-and-go for the Warriors at first… but then Steph Curry blew up the scoreboard in the second half to show everybody why he’s the best shooter in the world, leading his team to their fifth straight Conference Finals. Now we have this matchup between the number one and number three seeds in the West.
Golden State and Portland went 2-2 against each other in the regular season. After Tuesday, the Warriors are up one game in this Conference Finals, winning the first of the series in quite serious fashion, 116-94. It’s early yet, but a 22 point victory early on doesn’t bode well for the Blazers. And that was without Kevin Durant, who should return from injury during this series. Curry led the Warriors with 36 points while Klay Thompson followed behind him with 26. Meanwhile, Portland’s efforts were spread more fully across the board with 19 by Damian Lillard and 17 each by CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, and Maurice Harkless. Hey, balance is a good thing, right? Both Lillard and McCollum have been great in the postseason but they’ll need to absolutely kill it against the Warriors to come out of this one alive. To be honest, we think the Warriors are almost definitely going back to the Finals.
Well, that’s just our prediction anyway… Shop Warriors v. Trail Blazers tickets!
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors
This matchup is as it should be. The one and two seeds of the Eastern Conference are now going head to head to see who’s truly the best contender – who deserves to take on the Golden State dynasty (or you know, whoever wins the West). So how did we get here? The Raptors just sent the Philadelphia 76ers home in dramatic style with a buzzer beater by superstar Kawhi Leonard in Game 7 (over Joel Embiid, no less). The Milwaukee Bucks’ Conference Semifinals wasn’t nearly as exciting, as they beat the Boston Celtics 4-1 in their series, knocking off a team which has been a bit of a letdown all season. Unsurprising.
Head coach of the Raptors Nick Nurse believes his team needs to get better before facing the Bucks – and that’s definitely true offensively – but they better hurry up and do it. Toronto won’t have nearly as much rest or practice time as Milwaukee before the Conference Finals. Their star player Kawhi Leonard doesn’t have as much solid support on the Raptors as his counterpart star player Giannis Antetokounmpo does from his fellow Bucks. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe can each post over 20 points easily in any game, and they’ve got several consistent double-digit contributors. The Bucks also have great off-the-bench scorers. Meanwhile, the Raptor’s Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Danny Green have been just okay in the postseason. New addition center Marc Gasol has been good on defense but he’s struggled to score as well. Their bench has also been ineffective. The one thing the Raptors have going for them is their defense, but man, they need to start putting up points if they want to stand a chance against Milwaukee. Because seriously, the Bucks look GOOD. We wouldn’t be surprised if this series isn’t even close.
Hey, we could be wrong though. Shop Bucks v. Raptors tickets!